Astronomers have discovered for the first time an elliptical planet that looks like a rugby ball

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12 ene 2022 09:17 GMT

The elongated shape of exoplanet WASP-103b is caused by the intense gravitational force of its host star.

With the help of the European Space Agency’s Exoplanet Identification Satellite (CHEOPS), an international group of astronomers has been able for the first time to identify a deformation on a distant planet that has an elliptical shape due to the massive tidal forces in those associated with it. It resembles the shape of a rugby ball or American football.

As the scientists explain in their latest research, published On Tuesday in the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the planet WASP-103b, discovered in 2014 in the constellation Hercules, about 1,533 light-years from Earth, is twice as large as Jupiter and 1.5 times more massive than the gas giant. .

However, the proximity to its host star, WASP-103, which is about 1.7 times larger and similar in temperature to our Sun, makes the exoplanet’s gravitational pull so strong that tidal forces dramatically distort its spherical shape, giving it the appearance of A rectangle.

By combining a series of data obtained from observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA-ESA), the Spitzer Space Telescope (NASA) and CHEOPS, the researchers were able to determine the change in shape of WASP-103b. To measure the torsion curve, astronomers have exploited the fact that the planet dims a little bit of the star’s light each time it passes in front of it, a phenomenon known as transits.

“After observing several purported crossings, we were able to measure the deformation. It’s incredible that we were able to do this. It’s the first time an analysis of this kind has been done,” hung Babatunde Akinsanmi, co-author of the study.

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Similarly, by determining a parameter known as the “love number” of the deformation curve, which indicates how mass is distributed within the planet, the academics found evidence that Jupiter’s WASP-102 have similar internal structures, despite the difference in sizes between them.

“In principle, we would expect a planet with a mass 1.5 times that of Jupiter to be roughly the same size. Therefore, WASP-103b must be extremely blown by heat from its nearby star, and possibly other mechanisms.” explained Monica Lindell, co-author of the research, which ensures that future observations with CHEOPS and the James Webb Space Telescope will help scientists decipher the details of tidal deformation and the internal structure of other similar exoplanets.

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Lovell Loxley

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